As the off-season rolls in, it’s the perfect time to plan your upcoming Triathlon season for 2024. Choosing the right Ironman race is crucial for a successful season, and with the plethora of options available, it’s essential to ask yourself some critical questions before signing up. Let’s dive into the considerations for your Ironman journey this year.
Which Ironman Triathlon Should I Do?
As you contemplate your race schedule on Ironman.com, here are five questions to guide your decision-making process:
a. Swim: River, Ocean, or Lake?
Consider your comfort in open water. Did you grow up swimming in a lake, unfazed by fish and sharks? Opt for an ocean swim. If the idea of marine life discomforts you, a river or lake might be more suitable. Reflect on specific races, as the ocean swims in Ironman, FL, the lake swims in Boulder, or the river in California. Are wetsuits needed? Is the water temperature a factor?
b. Bike: Flats, Hills, or Mountains?
Assess your cycling strength—whether you’re a powerhouse, average, or still finding your wheels. Races like Ironman FL and Western Australia offer flat terrains, demanding strong core and back endurance. Races like Mont Tremblant (only a 70.3 now) or Wisconsin could be your calling if you enjoy the challenge of hills. For mountain enthusiasts, think about the rigorous climbs in races like IM Nice. Consider investing in a power meter for accountability and possibly a road bike vs. a triathlon bike.
c. Run: 2-3 Loops, Flat, or Hilly?
Evaluate your running terrain preferences. Some races feature 2-3 loops, which can be mentally challenging and an opportunity for strategic pacing. Ironman FL boasts a flat two-loop run, while Ironman AZ incorporates three loops with some elevation. Know your training grounds—hills or flats—and align your race choice accordingly.
Ironman, FL, has two loops and flat as all get out. The support is WONDERFUL! Ironman AZ has three loops and is balanced with a little hill. It can get pretty dark and lonely out there on the back half.
d. Training Season: Winter, Spring, Fall, or Summer?
Look at your training schedule and climate preferences. Races span from March to December, allowing flexibility. Consider when you do your most intensive training. Are you willing to train through winter or endure summer heat? Factor in your profession—teachers might find summer races more convenient.
For example, check out the Ironman Website, and you will see a race every month other than January and February. You can do Ironman Western Australia in December (I highly recommend it). Your heavy training months will be September-November. Check out Ironman New Zealand, which is in March, but remember your heavy training days will be from December to February. Do you have anyone to train with? Will you be inside teaching if you live in the Mid-West?
e. Travel: Flight or Car?
Decide on your preferred mode of transportation. Driving offers convenience, especially for local races, while flying expands your horizons globally. Consider logistics—bike transport, bike boxes, and services like TriBike Transport if you’re venturing abroad.
Final Thoughts: Choose What Excites You
Selecting an Ironman can be daunting with various factors at play. Refrain from succumbing to the pressure of closing registrations or peer influence. Choose a race that genuinely excites you, one you can’t wait to conquer. Here is an excellent story about Ironman Texas 2016:
I chose to do Ironman Texas in 2016, and in my heart, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I did it because there were more KQ slots. It was a shit show. The swim was awful. The race directors cut the bike course short due to flooding earlier in TX, and the run was also cut short because we got hailed on and were stopped for 25 minutes. After that race, I choose the races I want to do versus what I must do to earn a slot. That’s different than the way to race an Ironman Triathlon! And guess what? It paid off in the long run!
Learn from my past experiences; as in the case of Ironman Texas, racing for the wrong reasons can lead to disappointment. Your Ironman journey should be a personal adventure, not just a pursuit of slots and medals.
As you gear up for the 2024 Triathlon season, let your passion guide your choices. The right Ironman awaits—the one that aligns with your strengths, preferences, and, most importantly, your racing spirit. See you at the starting line!
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